About 300 cycling enthusiasts from across Montreal gathered in the city's Rosemont neighbourhood Wednesday evening to ride their bikes in silence, to honour the memory of people who died cycling in the city — and to call on everyone to be mindful while sharing the road.
The annual event is called the Tour du silence, and this year, the honorary spokespeople are the parents of Clément Ouimet, a promising competitive cyclist killed last October while training on Mount Royal.
Ouimet's mother, Catherine Bergeron, said she was touched to see such a big turnout.
"It's a warm feeling. We just take it all in — all the energy helps us a lot," she said right before the ride on CBC Radio One's Homerun.
Her 18-year-old son was killed last October on Mount Royal, as he was descending on Camillien-Houde Way, when a tourist made an illegal U-turn in front of him.
Bergeron's goal in acting as honorary host of this event is to make people think more about what they can do as individuals on the road and take responsibility for their actions.
"Take time; look around; be conscious of what is around," she said. "We are all impatient at one time.… Say OK, relax."
Ouimet's girlfriend, Livia Martin, was at the event with her father, Maxime Martin. Both say they were deeply affected by his death.
"It puts everything into perspective. You see life differently," Maxime Martin said. "I used to be one of those car drivers who used to say, 'Damn cyclists, get out of the way.' But now when I see one, it just becomes clear that it's time to slow down and take deeper breaths and what's the rush?"
Last year, 11 cyclists were killed on Quebec roads.
No charges for driver
In March, Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions decided not to pursue criminal charges against the SUV driver who struck and killed Ouimet.
Bergeron, a lawyer, said that although she thinks the fault is on the driver, "he didn't wake up in the morning saying, 'I'm going to kill a cyclist.' He didn't think."
That's the message she's trying to send: Take the time to think, and everyone will be safe.
She said the driver has not been in touch with the family, adding "maybe it's better" that way.
Cycling makes her feel closer to her late son, she said.
"I feel really close to him when I'm on my bike," Bergeron said. "I feel like I'm with him."
This evening's event started at Pelican Park in Rosemont—La-Petite-Patrie. From there, cyclists rode 7.5 kilometres at a speed of 15 km/h — in total silence.
"Silence can be loud," Bergeron said.